FIA race director Michael Masi insists the rules regarding track limits did not change during the Bahrain Grand Prix, despite Mercedes’ instructions to Lewis Hamilton.
In the event notes on Friday it was made clear that track limits would be enforced at Turn 4 during practice and qualifying – with lap times being deleted if a driver went wide – but not during the race. However, the sporting regulation stating that a driver cannot gain a lasting advantage by exceeding track limits continued to apply, resulting in Max Verstappen being told to hand a position back to Hamilton, who had been liberal with track limits in clear air.
Explaining the differences, Masi said there was no change in the way track limits were policed, even though Hamilton ran wide out of Turn 4 for the majority of the first part of the race before a race control message warning him to stop doing so.
“So it is quite different, and clearly specifically different and consistent with both notes and what was mentioned and discussed with drivers in the driver meeting,” Masi said. “That if an overtake takes place with a car off track and gains an advantage, a lasting advantage, I will go on the radio and suggest to the team that they immediately relinquish that position, and that was made very clear.
“With regard to tolerance given with people running outside of the track limits during the race, it was mentioned very clearly in the meeting and the notes that it would not be monitored with regard to setting the lap time so to speak, but it will always be monitored in accordance with the sporting regulations that a lasting advantage overall must not be gained.
“Nothing changed at all during the race. We had two people that were looking in that area at every car at every lap, and pretty much every car bar one was doing the right thing within what we expected in a general sequence. There was the occasional car that had a bit of a moment or went out there, but it wasn’t a constant thing.”
Masi confirmed that he was the person who told Red Bull to hand the position back to Hamilton after Verstappen went wide overtaking the race leader less than four laps from the end.
“Red Bull were actually given an instruction immediately by myself,” he said. “I suggested they relinquish that position as listed in the sporting regulations, which they did. It wasn’t for exceeding track limits; it was for gaining a lasting advantage by overtaking another car off the race track.”
The Australian insisted that the rules were clarified for the drivers during the driver briefing on Friday night, so they knew what the regulations were for qualifying and the race.
“There were the notes updated between FP1 and FP2 as a result of what we had seen, and it was made very clear for practice and qualifying that it would be all four wheels to the left of the red and white curb,” he said. “In addition, to help the drivers based on feedback from last year’s event, there was originally a white line across the other circuit, and the red and white curb had been extended all the way across that to help them all the way across us.”